Sebastien Ogier leads Volkswagen podium sweep in Rally Australia
French world champion Sebastien Ogier led a podium clean sweep as Volkswagen claimed their second consecutive World Rally Championship manufacturers` title in Australia on Sunday.
Coffs Harbour, Australia: French world champion Sebastien Ogier led a podium clean sweep as Volkswagen claimed their second consecutive World Rally Championship manufacturers` title in Australia on Sunday.
Ogier held off Finnish team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to win the three-day Rally Australia gravel event by 6.8seconds.
Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium lockout for Volkswagen in third, a further 1min 11.2sec behind.
It was Ogier`s 22nd career win and his sixth of the season, edging him closer to a second consecutive drivers` title.
Ogier leads Latvala by 50 points with three rounds remaining and he is in position to clinch the world title at his home rally next month.
The manufacturers` title has not been decided so early in the season since 1989, underlining Volkswagen`s dominance this year.
Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia won 11 of the 20 Special Stages in the Australian event.
Ogier said Sunday`s victory was not achieved with the same dominance as his win last year in Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales north coast.
"This year it wasn`t possible to have that. Jari-Matti was strong but today I knew that without mistakes I would be okay," Ogier said.
"I tried to stay concentrated, pushing when it was clean and being more cautious in the tricky parts.
"It wasn`t a big winning margin but enough to win the rally and another crucial step towards winning the title."
Latvala led by a small margin until Ogier`s push for victory on Saturday.
Although rain was forecast, the Frenchman opted for harder compound Michelin tyres than Latvala.
The gamble worked as the rain stayed away and Latvala`s tyres overheated in the warm weather.
The Frenchman turned a four-second deficit into a nine-second advantage in just one stage, from which Latvala could not recover.
Mikkelsen fought off Northern Ireland`s Kris Meeke for the final podium place.
But after Meeke was penalised more than a minute on Saturday for cutting a corner illegally, the Norwegian cruised to his fourth podium of the year.
The penalty dropped Meeke`s Citroen DS3 behind Mikko Hirvonen, but Meeke moved back into fourth to head the Finn`s Ford Fiesta RS by 9.6sec.